Growing up in Colorado, the chances I had to go the beach were very minimal. I was able to go to Hawaii once and experience those incredible beaches, a beautiful beach in Veracruz, Mexico, and I also went to the West Coast a handful of times. On the flip side, Forrest grew up going to the beach very often. He lived three hours or so from the beach, and visiting the beach was something his family did a lot. Every time I’ve been to North Carolina, we’ve made a point to go.
The first time was right after we got married.
And if you couldn’t tell, it was pretty freezing. We were there right at the end of December, and needless to say, we weren’t going to get in the water very far. It was still very beautiful though, and I loved being able to see a beach on the East Coast!
The next time we went to the beach, Jack was only a few months old, and we were in South Carolina. I’ll admit, I really don’t like getting in the water a lot, so I was fine to just sit and relax under an umbrella with Jack, or walk along the coast with Jack in my Moby wrap. It was still fun though, and definitely a different experience than the time before.
And, as you might remember, our most recent trip was last month. I was a little nervous, because Jack has a serious water phobia, and I wasn’t sure how he would handle it. Well, he hated the ocean. But when we were far from the water, he had a blast. We both even took a nice nap on the beach. This was my first time actually swimming on a North Carolina beach, so that was a blast.
Anyways, even though I’m not an expert on going to the beach, I feel like I’ve learned a few tips over the years on how to have a successful trip. And for the places I lack, Forrest has provided me with some details as well. Here are some tips on how to have a successful family trip to the beach (with toddlers and babies in tow!)
Absolutely have some kind of shade from the sun, especially if are going to be there for a long period of time and have small children with you. At the minimum, having a large umbrella can help a lot when you need a break from the sun beating down on you. Forrest’s family had a nice, large canopy that was big enough for all of us to sit under, and
Not all beaches have places nearby where you can buy food, and even when they do, the prices are likely to be very high. I’ve never been to a beach that bans people from bringing their own food, so definitely bring snacks. I’d recommend bringing snacks like crackers, nuts, and fruit.
If you’ll be there all day, definitely bring some kind of lunch. There’s just something about being at the beach that makes you hungry. Sandwiches are always a good option, but if you bring something that needs to be kept cool, be sure to bring along a cooler. This can also keep water bottles cool.
This may seem silly to say, but don’t forget towels. And bring extras. You never know if one of your towels is going to get completely covered in sand or water. It may even be smart to bring two per person, if you have room. One to rinse off from water, and one to lay in the sand to lounge on.
Choose the Right Time
If you get to the beach early, you’re more likely to get a good spot. We got there around 9 AM, and we almost had the beach to ourselves. We got our pick of a spot, and enjoyed some really relaxing time with the only noise being the crashing waves. It certainly filled up later on, but it was nice, because we had our spot staked out, and we got a killer parking spot. If you are only planning on a half day the beach, going in the morning or early evening helps to avoid the most direct sunlight.
Water, water, water! Bring lots of water bottles, and a place to keep them cool — if they are just sitting out, they will get hot fast, and that won’t do you much good. It’s so easy to get dehydrated, so make sure to force yourself and those with you to drink continually the whole time you are the beach. Don’t count on a beach having a water bottle station, or even a sink to fill up bottles, either. I’ve heard of some beaches not allowing glass bottles, so be aware of that.
I’ve talked about the importance of sunscreen and other sun safety tips in the past, and the beach is definitely not a place you want to skimp on it. Especially since most people are at the beach during prime sunburn time, it’s super important to have good sunscreen that isn’t expired. Be sure to read the instructions as well. We didn’t do that, and Forrest ended up with a pretty nasty sunburn from our last beach trip. Sunscreen loses its effectiveness when you sweat or get wet, so you need to apply it fairly often when at the beach. Look for an SPF 30 or above, and make sure to cover your whole body. Don’t be like me, and forget to do your husband’s entire arm, or else you might end up with someone looking like this.
Who doesn’t love digging in the sand, building a sand castle, or burrying a family member?! One thing I really regret not having when we went to the beach this last time with Jack was a shovel and pail. He loves playing in the sandbox, and I think he would have enjoyed it a little more if we had some toys to play with in the sand. Even having a few empty cups would be better than nothing.
If you plan to stay the entire day at the beach, then you may want to take a few breaks from the water. During those breaks, it might be fun to have a game like bocce ball, ladder ball, or Frisbee on hand to play. Forrest really enjoys playing Frisbee, especially on the beach. These games are easy to transport, won’t easily got lost at the beach, and are just overall relaxing to play. We had bocce ball when we went to the beach this last time, and while I didn’t play, Forrest sure had a lot of fun!
Sand gets everywhere when you are at the beach, and if you aren’t careful, you’ll go home with sand on everything you brought. Bring bags to place items in that you don’t really want sand to get on (like extra towels that you don’t lay out, phones, cameras, etc.) and if they have a zipper, that’s even better. Sometimes a mighty gust of wind might suddenly appear, and even if things are on chairs, they might get covered in sand.
Research the Area
Not all beaches have ammenities like outdoor rinse off stations or bathrooms nearby. Because we drove further out to find a less busy location, we also were further away from these places, and ended up having to drive to one afterwards. And since we were covered in sand, the entire car was as well by the time we got there. If you feel like you’ll need to be near a restroom, restaurants, etc., do research ahead of time and find areas that have the things you need. Most beaches have some kind of information online about them, so just look this up beforehand. You can also figure out where parking is and what the hours are as well.
Be Careful of When You Go
Some times of year are more popular than others. For instance, right after the 4th of July, which is when we went, was super busy. Going in the middle of the week is usually a good time to go, as long as there isn’t some major holiday around that time. Don’t assume that the beach will be warm either year round. Even if an area is typically warm throughout the year, the beach may still be cold.
Even though it might be fun to stay at a beachfront house or hotel, it’s definitely going to cost you a bundle. Researching areas that are within about 30 minutes of the beach you want to go to, and finding hotels around there, can end up saving you a lot as well. I highly recommend using Priceline or Hotwire. I’ve really liked Priceline’s last minute deals lately, because they really are awesome deals, and you can often find nice hotels. If you do book on a website like Priceline or Hotwire, be sure to call ahead of time to make any requests about bed sizes, non-smoking, etc.
If you are going to a beach in Southern California, one great way to save is by using Get Away Today. They have some of the best deals on lodging (and vacation packages to popular Southern California locations), with a best rate guarantee! If you book a package using my code Clarks2015, you can get $10 off. All their hotels are highly recommended, and I really think you can find the best deal there.
Most beach entries have some kind of sign that talk about the rules, mention when high tide will be, and discuss any current dangers. Don’t just ignore these regulations. There’s typically a sign that talks about rip currents, and how to get out of them. This isn’t something to mess around with, and they can happen to anyone. In fact, I believe two people drowned in a rip current at the same beach we were at during the weekend we were there. Knowing how to escape from a rip current is essential knowledge, that needs to be reviewed with everyone going in the water.
Not only will having a hat keep you shaded, but it can also protect you from sunburns as well. One of the most painful sunburns I’ve gotten has been in the part of my hair, and having a hat can easily prevent those from happening. Plus, if you are bald or have thin hair, your entire scalp could get burnt. Wide brimmed hats are nice if you have one, but even a simple baseball cap can be helpful.
Don’t Go Alone
I’m not saying you have to constantly be next to someone, but be sure to let someone at least know when you are going out in the water. This is especially important for children — it might be easy to just let them go do whatever they want while you relax in a chair with a book, but things can get tragic quickly. You never know when a huge wave or a rip tide might occur, and if a child isn’t paying attention or the best swimmer, you never know what can happen. Just be aware of what is going on.
Don’t Force Anyone in the Water
One of the things that annoys me most, is when people tell me I “have” to do something when it comes to parenting Jack. Like, I “have” to make him cry it out when he’s only four months old, or I “have” to feed him dairy because it will make him outgrow his intolerance (which, it will not do, FYI.) If your child is scared of the water, I really don’t think forcing them in is going to fix the problem. With Jack, when it comes to water, we’ve discovered we have to ease up to the big water. For instance, last week we were at a water park, and we had to start with a small puddle of water he could splash in, and by the end of the night, we were in the big pool with no tears.
Some kids just take a longer time getting used to new things, and letting them take their time will pay off in the end.
Cash and Quarters
Quite often, if there are vendors on the beach, or lockers near by, you will need to use cash or quarters. Making a stop by the bank to get some cash and quarters is a good idea if you plan to use those amenities, as it might be an unpleasant surprise when you go to pay for something, only to realize they don’t take debit or credit cards.
Sand can get hot, and there can be lots of random debris around the beach that might hurt your feet. Water shoes can help protect your feet in many ways, and are usually not too expensive.
I know everyone wants to wear their cutest swimming suit to the beach that makes them look their best. Whatever, that’s fine. But if you plan on doing some serious swimming and boogy boarding, then please, make sure you have a swim suit that isn’t going to fall off easily. Trust me, you don’t want to come up from a riding a big wave, only to realize that your swimming suit has fallen off. Rash guards can be a nice investment, especially if you go to the beach often, because you can save money on sunscreen and it can hep keep your warmer. Plus, there’s a lot less of a chance that you’ll have a wardrobe malfunction!
Follow the Rules
I’ve already touched on this a little bit, but just follow the rules. Don’t go out further in the water than you should, pick up your trash, and be aware of your surroundings. It will keep you and others safe, and make your trip even better.
Do you have a favorite beach? What have you done in the past to make sure your trip was successful?